Monday, 1 April 2013

Bored with Combat: Part 2

The tedium of combat in a world that you can't explore via the new sky-hook mechanic has turned what could have been a wondrous exploration of both narrative and world building into a boring task of objective completing. The sky-hook works great as a melee weapon – gloriously violent – but that is a secondary use and its main reason for existing is never fully explored. I find myself bored every time I reach a new area and have to fight my way through it just to open a new door, only to be greeted with more combat – which I have to fight my way through just to open another door...
In such a world where everything is floating high in the sky and there are rails that connect certain sections, I wonder where the ability to use those rails to explore and travel between areas is. This great new mechanic has been completely underutilised in favour of combat and action. What we could have had instead was the challenge of finding the right rail to land on and not be swept away from the target by the wrong rail, using the freight hooks to swing between buildings with more of a fun free flow effect that could have been part of a puzzle that unlocked the next area – rather than having to constantly battle through enemies to reach the next area.
There's just no genuine fun in this game.
There's no genuine exploration in this game.
There's no genuine character development because all the characters ever do is fight their way through enemies, as though that alone is going to develop them. I could see both Booker and Elizabeth having greater development if they were allowed to genuinely argue, or at least disagree, on a path to take using either the freight hooks or rails, having them part ways, end up in the same place and then challenging the other to go back and try the other route. When the player completes both routes and gets through the obstacles in their way (not combat obstacles!), while also collecting collectables via the alternative route, there would be genuine appreciation at the end of it, a genuine feeling of "Oh, okay, so you can do it. Maybe I have a bit more faith in you now ...oh hey, what did you find?". There's always an opportunity for some great banter in interesting situations that video games seem to completely miss.
The linearity isn't stifling, because good narratives have linearity, but the ability to explore and have a fun and wondrous time exploring is stifled through not allowing sections to breath without combat, not allowing characters to get to know one another outside of combat; and what seems most important to me at the moment: not allowing the narrative to be developed without the constant interruption of combat.
The tedium of combat has made Bioshock: Infinite boring.

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